Tailoring Bike Light Jackets

November 17, 2017

We just got back from Linz/Austria where we played E-Textile Tailor Shop for 3 days with a wonderful group of students at the Art University. We elicited commissions for custom Bike Light Jackets from 5 local Linzers ahead of time and students know nothing of this until the first day of class.

The course began with an evening lecture (presentation slides here) that introduced them to our own (real?) E-Textile Tailor Shop project in Berlin.

>> Workshop page
>> Flickr photo set

The following day we taught a crash-course into Arduino programming and e-textile materials and techniqies.
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz

In the late afternoon that same day Students formed five groups of three each, and each met with one of the locals to receive their commission.

Daniela’s – Low-Tech Reflect

Dawn, Giacomo, Melanie
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz
Daniela's design sketch

Hannes’ – Cowboy Safety

Afra, Mirela, Sam
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz

Luis’ – Maritime Lights

Amir, Karoline, Stefan
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz

Martin’s – Classic

Guillem, Tania, Wai Wai
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz

Rosi’s – Spiral of Awareness

Ines, Kay, Kevan
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz
Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz
Bike Light Jacket workshop Linz

Two of the commissioners (Hannes and Martin) brought jackets that they already owned to be altered into bike light jackets. For two other commissions (Rosi, Luis) we shopped for second hand jackets ahead of time based on their initial wishes that they submitted to us the week before. Only Daniela’s commission for a netted vest was made from scratch. In retrospect it was a really good decision to work on “augmenting” existing clothing items rather than tailoring from scratch, because students only had 2 days to complete the commissions and there would not have been time for them to tailor jackets from scratch.

Students had 1-2 hours with their commissioners to interview them about what they want and decide on what they could realistically offer to make them. After the commissioners left, the students spent another few hours coming up with with a concrete translation of what had been talked. This process of interpreting the wishes/desires/requests of the commissioners takes time. Students needed to negotiate the wishes of their commissioners and their own creative input as well as what they could realistically make in 2 days. At the end of this first full day, some of the ideas had grown to include quite a lot of different functions, including various sensors and indicator signals. By the morning of the second day, students had simplified these ideas down to a single function and began work.

Work on the second day included:
Deciding where the LED lights should go on the jacket (front back, area…)
How to turn the light on and off (separate switch or just plug in battery)
What kinds of LEDs to use (SMD single LEDs, through-hole LEDs with curled legs, Neopixels)
Plan and implement the code for the Arduino Flora
Prototype the circuit with crocodile clips or on a breadboard
Make samples to test materials, techniques, aesthatics
Draw how to layout the circuit on the body
Is the circuit visible or hidden? If visible, what kind of style is it (handmade, slick, sporty…)?
Transferring the circuit layout to the garment
Sewing, sewing and fusing!
Fixing breaks, debugging code…
Task division (circuit layout, sewing, programming)

We organized sandwich materials and ate together for lunch, and for dinner we cooked vegetable stew with couscous while the students continued working. The second full day of work ended at 23:00.

Tailoring Bike Light Jackets in Linz

Everybody was back at 10:00 the next morning to continue work and finish their circuits, sensors and LED soldering.

At 16:00 on the second day the local Linz commissioners came back to pick up their “orders”.

Daniela’s – Low-Tech Reflect

Bike Light Jacket workshop Linz
Bike Light Jacket workshop Linz

Hannes’ – Cowboy Safety

Bike Light Jacket workshop Linz
Bike Light Jacket workshop Linz

Luis’ – Maritime Lights

Bike Light Jacket workshop Linz
Bike Light Jacket workshop Linz

Martin’s – Classic

Bike Light Jacket workshop Linz
Bike Light Jacket workshop Linz

Rosi’s – Spiral of Awareness

Bike Light Jacket workshop Linz
Bike Light Jacket workshop Linz

After three days of learning and hard work to produce these commissioners we asked the student tailors to calculate how much time they had spent working on their jackets and to propose a price that they would ask for this work if it had been a real commission.
We also asked the commissioners to tell us how much they would want to pay for a Bike Light Jacket like the one they had commissioned.

The materials costs of each Bike Light Jacket come to about 25-30 Euro:
16 Euro Flora
4 Euro USB power hub
2 Euro USB cable
2 Euro Snaps
3 Euro Conductive fabrics and threads